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Debating the FDA's graphic cigarette warning labels

November 15, 2010 |  1:49 pm

Smoking Labels

How much control should the government have of a consumer product? The Chicago Tribune raised this question in a Saturday editorial about the FDA's proposed graphic cigarette warning labels. From Tobacco porn: The faulty logic behind the new cigarette warnings:

It's one thing to require makers of hazardous products to disclose the risks to their potential customers. That's what the government has done since 1965 with cigarettes, a step that has educated Americans and helped cut the prevalence of smoking by half.

It's another thing to force companies to assault consumers with images designed to evoke fear and loathing of their product. This effort reeks of government as nanny, acting on the assumption that ordinary people have to be browbeaten into sound choices.

The Tribune also questions whether the labels can be effective, especially to the teenagers who're likely more swayed by the cool-kid smoker at school.

The Sacramento Bee, however, argues that these labels are of the essence. In Monday's Cigarette warnings can be a lifesaver:

California long has produced anti-tobacco ads, which has helped reduce smoking dramatically.

Most of the rest of the country has no such program. That would change in dramatic fashion. The feds would be placing eye-catching anti-smoking messages directly in the hands of anyone who would buy a pack of cigarettes.

[…]

The industry's own actions also set it apart [from other consumer products], as U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler concluded in her landmark 2006 ruling in the federal government's suit against tobacco.

[…]

"Over the course of more than 50 years, defendants lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as 'replacement' smokers, about the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke," Kessler wrote.

No doubt, there will be lobby efforts in the new Congress to undermine the FDA's undertaking. This campaign must proceed. It could be one of the most important public health efforts ever.

Your turn to weigh in. What do you think about these in-your-face warning labels?

 

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Photo: Cigarette labels featuring graphic images have been proposed by the FDA. Credit: Food and Drug Administration

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